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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


by Steve Hellyard Swartz

They're studying Mesopotamia at my daughter's middle school
After a week of learning about the place, my daughter informed me that the teacher today told them that the new name for it is Iraq
Asking the class:
“Who knows who is fighting in Iraq”?
A boy named Joe said:
“World War II”?
I wondered how many kids thought Joe just might be right
After all, it is one hell of a question
Who knows who is fighting in Iraq ?

Is Joe’s answer – World War II – any less off the mark than my “Indeed”
You know, when I wrote “Indeed” I thought – this is probably the end
It’s bone-chillingly damp on the porch where I’ve been sitting and I think the “Indeed” pretty much did it, pretty much made my point, my point, I think, being that the question
is the answer
Who knows who is fighting in Iraq ?
But I stared at “Indeed” for a few minutes
In which time my cigarette killed itself and leaped into a pile of wet pine needles
In which time the guys from the town came by and vacuumed all my leaves from the road in front of my house
In which time the dog stood at the front window and showed off his impressive pearly whites
In which time the guy next door, one of my sworn enemies, crossed the street to see if he had any mail in his mail box, before slouching home empty-handed
In which time I returned to the beginning of the poem and re-read it up to the place where I wrote
Who knows who is fighting in Iraq ?
Oh yeah,
I asked my daughter
Did anyone know?
She said “I did, Daddy.
It’s us”.
I asked her if she raised her hand
She said no
Someone else did, though
And what did they say, I wanted to know
My daughter told me –
They got it right.

Steve Hellyard Swartz is an award-winning playwright, filmmaker, and poet. In 1990, his film Never Leave Nevada opened in Dramatic Competition in the U.S. Sundance Film Festival. He has won a "Green Eyeshades Award" from the Society of Professional Journalists for radio arts criticism broadcast on WFSU-FM, NPR for Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida. His poems have been published in newversenews, levelpoetry, switched-on guttenberg, The Kennesaw Review, and Haggard and Halloo. He has won Honorable Mention for his poetry in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Competition, as well as The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards.